Team member Amy trained for & ran her first marathon at Fox Cities Marathon in 2016. We put her in the blog driver's seat to tell you all about it!
We all have a to-do list, of things you would love to accomplish/see/tackle/experience as you navigate the adventures of life. Over the past 15 months, I checked a few things off my list:
1. See favorite band in concert at Red Rocks. Check (The band is Barenaked Ladies in case you were wondering).
2. Visit the beauty that is the Grand Canyon. Check (I never knew how seeing it at different times of day changes how it looks. Now I know!)
3. Train for a marathon and complete it (OK, still post-marathon happiness…crushed it). Check & check.
It seems that the third one would have involved more arm-twisting, but alas, it did not. Here’s how it went down (because things are always official when proclaimed on Facebook):
My friend Aprill’s status on April 27: “Down to the wire to make a big life decision...commit to a marathon or not. On the pro side, 26.2 miles *might* be enough to calm Rascall (her dog who trained with us) down and I'm not emotionally attached to my toe nails. On the con side, it's 26.2 miles!”
My comment, an hour and a half later: “I’m in.”
So there you have it. You make big life-changing decisions that involve jumping rather large (figurative) hurdles on Facebook. There may have been crying afterward, and definitely crying after I mailed my registration for the race about two days later, but I made the financial commitment, so there was no turning back.
To be honest, and all joking aside, the thought of doing a marathon crossed my mind since I did my first half in 2000. In my cotton shirt and soccer shorts (one word folks: chafing!), I covered that 13.1 with a smile and wanted more. It took 16 years, seven more half marathons, eight relay marathons, and various 5Ks and 10Ks for me to go after it (oh, and the arm-twisting. We can’t forget that). So in spring, Aprill & I started the biggest running journey of our lives (after meeting on the high school track team, we have logged a lot of miles together).
Training was early, humid, rainy, sunny, hot, & long. We followed a schedule, set our alarms early, worked around kids’ schedules, husband schedules, illness (silly summer cold!), working, and summer vacations to stick to our plan, and follow through what we had committed to in the spring. And you know what, above everything else? It was fun! We logged miles, talked, laughed, & talked some more. Friends of ours joined our runs and were part of our village. Did you know it takes a village to train for a marathon? It does!
My first piece of advice in this post if you are thinking about training for a marathon: Establish that village as you make your plan (mine included my kids; husband; friends at Fleet Feet Sports Fox Valley; friends who covered miles with me & cheered me on throughout training; and my mom, who watched my kids from time to time as I crossed trained. Oh, & the nice folks at the convenience stores we stopped at during long runs to buy Gatorade. Thank you more than you know!)
Fast forward to Sept. 18, 2016: The 26th Annual Fox Cities Marathon. 16 years after I traveled half the distance at the same event, I toed the line for my first full. I actually slept the night before…how is that possible? I trusted my training. I had tapered. I had lifted, crossed-trained, rocked yoga so hard, walked and biked my way through training to celebrate my victory dance that day. More importantly, I kept an open mind on race day. I did the training, and whatever happened on race day happened. There were some things out of my control, and I was OK with whatever the day brought.
Eugene, Beth, Aprill & me at mile one.
Here’s what happened: Aprill & I ran. We took our walk breaks as we had trained for the long runs. I ran with friends throughout the course (thanks Beth & Eugene!); hugged people I knew (OK, for those who know me, I hugged people I didn’t know too!); high-fived volunteers; sang a little bit; saw my boys & husband at five different points throughout the course; hydrated; took my nutrition as I had trained; and had fun! SO. MUCH. FUN. Miles 17-20 were a bit of a struggle, but mentally, I stayed in the game. And when I hit mile 20, I narrowed my focus to get to the finish. It was go time, and I was so close. Aprill & I hung out most of the race together, just as we had through training, and talked each other through the blazing sun.
Aprill & I at mile 20, when things really got REAL (photo credit: Matt K.)
I saw my aunt & uncle just as I turned the corner at the finish line. I fist-pumped and yelled victoriously as I made my way to the line. And as soon as I crossed, I started bawling. I won’t lie folks, running a marathon is emotional. I think a lot when I run longer distances: I think about the people who have come into my life because of running. I think about loved ones I have lost. I think about people I care about going through struggles, and I run for them. On Sunday, all those thoughts flooded my mind as I ran, but I kept my composure until I crossed the line. And it was then, I could let go of my tears. And they were definitely more happy than sad.
Training for, and running a marathon, changes you. You find out what discipline you have. How flexible you are. What you can accomplish with your village. I may never run another one, but I can say I’m a marathoner. I have the medal and shirt to prove it (and posted about it on Facebook…so it for sure happened, right?)
My second piece of advice: Go after your dream. No matter what that is, you will find out what you are made of & how strong you are. I was just a girl with a dream, and now I’m a marathoner.
The finish line...it truly was glorious!